Friday, October 28, 2016

Cooperatives Build A Better World

I recently got the chance to screen a PBS Visionaries documentary celebrating 100 years of cooperatives. Can I just say I smiled through the whole hour? Watching the seven stories of cooperatives both in the U.S. and abroad made me swell with pride, pride for belonging to something that is committed to helping one another as a part of the very principles that make up their business model. (Click here to learn about the seven co-op principles.

I am blessed to be not only employed by a cooperative, but also a member of several through our farm. In both of these capacities, I have seen the hard work put in by members, delegates, board members and employees to make an impact, not only in the communities they live in or serve, but across the globe, from little things that multiply to become big things, like Operation Round Up at my local electric co-op, to the amazing list of community organizations my credit union supports, to the work Cooperative Resources International (CRI) conducts through its Cooperative Development and Emerging Markets Programs.

CRI has been working in global outreach for nearly 20 years. A recently completed project in Nicaragua spanned five years as part of a $5 million, USAID funded, Cooperative Development Program (CDP). The project aimed to transform household-level dairy producers and their cooperatives into small scale commercial firms. Dean Gilge, AVP of Global Development for CRI notes, "It is heartening to hear someone such as Norman Montenegro, General Manager for Nicaragua's Asogamat Cooperative, describe the tremendous value the program has made in their operation. Norman credits CRI's help in strong governance foundation, designing a strategic plan and coaching them to success."
Dean Gilge (left) and Dan Diederich, CRI Board Member (right) learn about Quesillos, a tortilla with white cheese, cream cheese and onions, from the Quesillo store manager.
Milk arrives at the central milk collection center in Nicaragua via several modes of transportation.
Recent projects have also taken us to South Africa where CRI has worked with the beef cooperative Inkephu and the dairy cooperative Seven Stars. These businesses were chosen because of their accomplishments in showing an interest and desire to grow as sustainable cooperatives. Genex Board Member, Terry Frost had this to say upon returning from his time working with the co-ops, "While improvements need to be made, the cooperatives' hope for the future is evident. I feel the cooperative members want to improve for their community. These people are very proud of their culture and heritage. They just need the guidance and training the CDP can and is providing."
Genex Board Member, Terry Frost (front) inspects a feedlot with the Chairman of Inkephu Cooperative in South Africa.
Last year, a CRI Emerging Markets Program, with funding from the USDA, brought a delegation of 29 beef industry representatives from China, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Russia to the U.S. The participants were key dicision makers from large beef operations, universities, agriculture ministries and processing facilities. The tour showcased the U.S. beef industry "from semen to cellophane."
And the CRI commitment to global development is far from over. With current projects in South Africa and the Dominican Republic, we hope to continue to make a difference in agriculture and communities world-wide. 

By the way, if you get a chance to check out the documentary coming to a PBS station near you this November, watch it.  You won’t regret the hour you spend!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cooperatives Build Leaders

A productive cooperative depends on its member-owners to lead it forward. Indeed, the cooperative model of governance requires democratic member control. Where do cooperatives find these leaders? I believe it is the cooperative system itself that fosters the leadership development by giving them the opportunity to experience unique situations and network with others in their industry.

I recently spent some time at Ruedinger Farms Inc., in Van Dyne, Wisconsin, talking with our Cooperative Resources International (CRI) Board Chairman, John Ruedinger. His first-hand experience echoes the cooperatives build leaders message.
Perhaps you are interested in getting involved with cooperative governance, but worry you don't have the experience or time to be a delegate. Two of our current delegates, Alexa Kayhart and Scott Erthum, took a few moments to share their stories. Read how they balance farm/ranch life with being a delegate and the benefits they are receiving from the process.  

Just as cooperative delegates and board members build their leadership skills, employees of cooperatives, and in particular CRI and its subsidiary employees, are given many opportunities to shape their management skills as well. A big portion of this initiative includes our own REACH Leadership Courses. In addition, employees are supported in endeavors to enrich their leadership experiences outside of our cooperative as well. Programs such as Leadership Wisconsin and Leadership Shawano County are two examples where CRI employees have honed their leadership skills. In addition, CRI employees are encouraged to join groups and volunteer in their communities as a part of our company’s value of stewardship.

Genex Production Training and Education Specialist, David Lee Schneider (second from right), received the Alva Rankin Award. This memorial award is given to a graduating Leadership Wisconsin Fellow who exemplifies Al’s strong leadership and personal skills.
Members of the CRI Information and Public Relations team spent time assembling weekend meal packs for children from area schools who are in need.
Genex employees receiving National Association of Animal Breeders awards: Jim Cumming 1 Million Unit Sales (Georgia), Jim Engle 1 Million Unit Sales (Idaho), Doug Westenbroek 3.5 Million Unit Sales (California), Bill Casey 1 Million Unit Sales (Wisconsin), Jan Longacre 1 Million Unit Sales (New York) and George Shue 100,000 First Services (Pennsylvania).
Tom Lyon, former Cooperative Resources International CEO, accepting the National Association of Animal Breeders Pioneer Award for long-term distinguished service to the A.I. industry.
Stan Lock (left) was honored with the Service to the Beef Industry award at the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle workshop.

CRI prides itself in its people, and we know that the cooperative model of business has allowed us to become the company we are today. From our Board to our delegates and employees, we have the people who are willing to put in the time and effort, because cooperatives build leaders!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Cooperatives Build Innovation

It is no secret Genex Cooperative, Inc. and our predecessors have led the way in the A.I. industry. Have a look at some of our accomplishments and get a peek into our exciting future!

Genex looks forward to delivering new solutions to meet our industry's emerging needs.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

From Office Attire to Farm Boots: All in a Day’s Work

By: Brooke Schultz, Communications Coordinator, CRI

I recently spent some time with Genex Territory Sales Manager Tim Lynch (a seasoned Genex veteran) to see what life of a Genex sales and service employee is really like. I don’t have an extensive background in agriculture, so having this opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes (or in my case, what goes on outside of the office) was exciting and intriguing.

Starting with a 4:30 a.m. wake up, I was already beginning to experience the life of an A.I. sales rep (and my admiration for all they do was already increasing). I sluggishly got ready, grabbed my coffee and headed towards the mid-part of Wisconsin.

Upon arrival of our meeting spot, Tim greeted me graciously and we hopped in his Genex van to begin our adventures.

My lovely ride for the day. And yes, the pink jacket is mine, not Tim’s ;)
As we drove towards Tim’s first stop of the day, I couldn’t help but think what a great day it was going to be. I can’t think of many things that beat driving down county backroads, winding around corners, listening to Packers talk radio (in true Wisconsin fashion, of course). About a half hour later we arrived at our first stop.

As we rolled up to the farm, the muddy tracks from the tractors, sound of machines whirring, and the smell of corn silage and manure let me know we were definitely at the right place. The moment Tim and I walked through the door, I could instantly tell the kind of relationship Tim has with his members and customers. Tim talked with the manager a bit about some of the new sire releases and which bulls he thought would work well in their breeding program. After the manager agreed to purchase a few units, Tim didn’t just close up shop. He continued the conversation, asking how the farm was doing and if everything was going well. It was apparent Tim wasn’t about making a sale – he was about our members and customers.

That became more and more apparent at each stop. Tim greeted nearly all of the producers as if they’d known each other forever (which, I suppose they pretty much have since Tim’s been with the company for over 25 years). Tim was well aware of each farm’s breeding program and what they were looking for. Nearly every stop we made there was a purchase – not because Tim pushed the sale but because he knew exactly what they wanted. He only had to show them four or five bulls, and the producer would typically pick about three bulls he’d like semen from.
Tim preparing an order for a customer
Since Tim and I work in two completely different settings, we took time between farm visits to better understand each other’s job responsibilities. I filled him in on what it’s like to be a Communications Coordinator, and he filled me in on his tenure with Genex. He has worked in nearly 30 different Wisconsin counties and has put many, many miles in, making around a dozen stops per day. I also couldn’t help but notice his form of GPS. When asked about it, he was not shy to tell me that he does a few things “old school.” I believe his exact wording was, “If it isn’t broke, why fix it?” His GPS was a cork board with a map, and each stop was marked with a pin or thumbtack. After he makes each stop, he pulls the pin out to see what stops he has left for the week. (And although there’s probably a 30-year difference between us, I could relate. While I’ve grown up in a technologically advanced era, I still find something satisfying about physically writing out reminders, making to-do lists and crossing off each item as it’s completed.)
Tim’s trusty GPS
As we continued on our adventure of cruising back roads to the next farm, Tim showed me another important aspect of his job: it’s all about teamwork and doing what you can to help your co-workers and company be successful. He had made a phone call to Ken, a member of his team, to let him know he’d be going past a few of Ken’s customers and he’d be more than willing to stop and provide them with the semen they needed. I also learned that a few of the stops we made that day weren’t Tim’s typical stops – he was helping out another member of his team to make sure Genex members and customers were taken care of. (That is one part of our jobs we have in common – both his and my team are always more than willing to help each other out. The comradery within Genex is truly uplifting.)

We only had a couple more stops before we were done with our day, so I squeezed in the last few questions I had. Me being the competitive person I am (although I like to think you can’t tell), I asked Tim if he ever runs into competitors on the same farm. He gave the answer I would expect from someone as professional as Tim (and as professional as Genex itself): “Yes, once in a while I’ll see a competitor’s vehicle in the driveway. I usually just drive by and let them have their time. Then I circle back later.” (C’mon, Brooke. Did you really expect any other answer from such a standup guy? And let’s be real, those competitors are just trying to do their jobs the same as we are. We just have to go to that farm and prove why Genex is the best choice.)

Considering I help with the resale product marketing and advertising, I asked him if he sold quite a bit of any particular resale products. He mentioned he sells quite a bit of our NuLife® ReBOUND™, NuLife Oral Electrolytes, Push™ calf nutritional paste and Milking Gloves. (He also sold a few of our Calf Coats that day as well, which, by the way, Genex has a promotion on right now, along with a few other resale product promotions. Be sure to ask your Genex representative about it today!)

As we made our last stop and headed back, I felt accomplished (although Tim did all of the work). I felt like I had learned a few new things and had a much better grasp on what our sales and service employees do (and a much bigger appreciation for them along with our members and customers who bust their backs day in and day out). I really couldn’t have asked for a better experience on a better September day with a better person. Tim, although I doubt you’ll read this (because you’re “old school”), I appreciate you letting me tag along to be your shadow for the day (or bodyguard as one producer put it). And I may or may not be biased, but I definitely think our Genex employees are about as top-notch as you can get ;)

Thumbs up to a successful (and windy) day!